Are Americans Pill-Popping Addicts?

A new study published on November 3 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) uncovered America’s insatiable use of prescription drugs. The study’s lead researcher Elizabeth D. Cantor, PhD, and colleagues examined data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in order to better understand the reasons for the increase in U.S. prescription drug use between 1999 and 2012.

The study analysed nearly 40,000 American adults, 20 years of age and above. There were seven samples extracted from the NHANES data, ranging from 4,861 to 6,212 participants per sample. The study found that prescription drug use increased by eight percent between two periods: 1999–2000 and 2011–2012. It went up from 51 percent in 1999–2000 to 59 percent in 2011–2012. Eighteen drug classes were examined, with 11 of those drug classes showing an increase. 

The study also accounted for age. There was a significant increase in prescription drug use for participants aged 40 and older. However, the research did note that single prescription drug use did not increase in participants aged 20 to 39.

The use of five or more prescription drugs, also known as polypharmacy, increased among the three age groups. Those between 20 and 39 years of age saw an increase from 0.7 percent to 3.1 percent. Participants between 40 and 64 years of age saw an increase from 10 percent to 15 percent. And those aged 65 and older saw an increase from 24 percent to 39 percent, the highest percentage increase of the three age groups. 

According to the study, the use of certain categories of medications increased significantly: 

  • Hypertensive medications increased from 20 percent to 27 percent.
  • Hyperlipidemia medications rose from 7 percent to 17 percent.
  • Antidiabetic medications increased from 4.6 percent to 8.2 percent.
  • Antidepressants increased from 7 percent to 13 percent.
  • Narcotic analgesics rose from 3.8 percent to 5.7 percent.

Nine of the top 10 prescription drugs saw increases. Those included in the study are hydrochlorothiazide, omeprazole, amlodipine, atorvastatin, albuterol, lisinopril, levothyroxine, metoprolol and metformin.

Most of the prescription drugs that saw a significant rise in use by American adults are associated with hypertension, diabetes, cardiometabolic syndrome and dyslipidemia — all of which are linked to obesity and pre-obesity risk factors. “Thus, the increase in use of some agents may reflect the growing need for treatment of complications associated with the increase in overweight and obesity,” the authors of the study noted in a press release.

Politician: Holding a Blank Medicine BottleIn many ways this is not surprising since obesity continues to be a dark cloud hanging over American health. Obesity affects 78.6 million Americans — that’s approximately one-third of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Childhood obesity is also on the rise, with 12.7 percent of American children and adolescents between two and 19 years of age considered obese, according to the CDC.

Your health starts at the grocery store and not at fast-food or restaurant chains that offer convenience. A bit of convenience can add up after a few years, and you could suddenly find yourself at the pharmacy filling a prescription.

Take an interest in your nutrition and the nutrition of your family. Exercise also plays a vital role in steering clear of prescription drugs down the road. Instead of movie night with a family-size bucket of KFC, take a stroll around the park with your family and opt for a barbecue of delicious organic chicken and loads of fresh farmers’ market veggies. 

What is your plan for avoiding the prescription drug epidemic in America?

—Stephen Seifert

Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flair for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.



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